What have Qatar and Japan achieved together over the last 50 years?
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of our bilateral relations with Qatar; those 50 years were characterized by mutual trust and fruitful cooperation at all times.
Japan and Qatar have steadily developed their relationship over the past half century, especially in the energy sector. The stable supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil from Qatar has supported Japan’s economic growth for many years.
Economic exchange has been the backbone of our relationship for more than five decades. Thanks to the strong political will of both countries and the ‘comprehensive partnership’ based on our cooperative relationship, solid foundations for bilateral cooperation have been established. These continue in various fields, not only in economic cooperation, but also in the cultural, technical, scientific, defense and security fields.
In January 2019, upon the visit of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani to Japan, a memorandum of cooperation was signed in the fields of economy, commerce, transportation, environment, legal affairs, culture and sports. Also during the same visit, a joint declaration was announced on the establishment of a “Strategic Dialogue” chaired by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, and indeed the first round of the Strategic Dialogue was launched in Doha during the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan H.E. Toshimitsu Motegi to the State of Qatar in August of this year. The Strategic Dialogue had several outcomes but most notably it has stressed on the mutual desire to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between our friendly nations especially in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations.
In terms of the economic relations, the State of Qatar is the 3rd largest supplier of both LNG and oil to Japan. Japan also imports helium and oil products. At the same time, Japan is Qatar’s number one trade partner with a trade volume of approx. QR29.11 billion during 2020. With regard to exports to Qatar, Japan exports mainly vehicles, machinery, railway and tramway to Qatar. Major Japanese companies are contributing to Qatar’s vital infrastructure projects such as Doha Metro, Hamad International Airport, LNG expansion projects, Mega-Solar-Power Plant of Al-Kharsaa, just to name a few.
In fact, the cooperation between Qatar and Japan has been expanding beyond energy and infrastructure projects to encompass cooperation in such promising projects as the joint investment in power plants in third countries, the production of new types of clean energy, the Golden Pass LNG project, the establishment of the Chair of the State of Qatar in Islamic Area Studies at Waseda University in cooperation with Qatar University, and the experimental plant for industrial waste water desalination, etc.
What makes Qatar and Japan strategic partners today and how can bilateral relations be strengthened?
Qatar is a true friend who helped Japan recover in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake with an additional supply of 4 million tons of LNG and an assistance of US$ 100 million in aid.
But long before that, Qatar was and continues to be considered as one of Japan’s most trusted LNG suppliers and has been occupying an important position in Japan’s energy security. Japan on the other hand, is also one of the major LNG importers of Qatar, and the strong relationship of trust between Japan and Qatar as trading partners remains unchanged.
Japan is also supporting “Qatar National Vision 2030” by both the public and private sectors. The national vision, which emphasizes social and environmental development, industrial diversification, and human resource development, presents a great opportunity for us to expand our cooperation on those fields.
Especially with Japan expressing its intention to realize a carbon neutral and a carbon-free society by 2050 and as the movement toward the realization of a green society is accelerating throughout the world, we feel it’s important for the two countries to expand their cooperation in the areas of energy conservation and clean energy including hydrogen and ammonia, while utilizing LNG, which has a relatively low impact on the environment.
From this perspective, I am very pleased that the Japanese companies will participate in the first solar power generation project in Qatar, as a symbol of the cooperation between our two countries in new fields.
Qatar, like Japan, has omnidirectional diplomacy as its basic policy of diplomacy. We also actively put effort in mediation efforts and humanitarian assistance for the realization of peaceful solutions to regional and international issues. Qatar, which shares many values with Japan, has recently played an important and active role in the evacuations from Afghanistan and has greatly enhanced its presence in the international community.
How will Qatar and Japan be celebrating the milestone?
To celebrate the milestone, we have compiled a slew of Cultural, sports and educational events in Qatar and in Japan -mainly by the Embassy of Qatar in Tokyo-. The celebratory events in Qatar started in November with the Japanese language Poetry Competition in Cooperation with Qatar Poetry Center. Soon after, we will participate at the 31st Doha International Book Fair on January 13-22. Coming up we have the 13th Japanese Speech Contest in Qatar in March. We are especially excited as those two events were canceled last year due to the pandemic.
We have also Martial Arts Demonstration lined up for the Sports Day in Qatar in February, yet our main event will be the Projection Mapping Show on February 4 that will celebrate the 50 year old friendship relation in a grand and unique way.
What message do you have for our readers?
I am aware that preparations are steadily progressing toward the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year. And Japan who has recently successfully concluded the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is determined to actively contribute to the success of the FIFA World Cup by sharing the knowledge that we gained from this experience with Qatar.
On a different note, with the spread of coronavirus, the whole world was faced with major confusion and economic deterioration. However, Qatar has started the vaccination movement from an early stage and according to latest statistics from the Ministry of Public Health MOPH, more than 84.6% of the population has already completed their second dose. In addition to that, Qatar has unveiled a plan for the third dose for all residents who meet the new criteria, regardless of age. So Qatar is making large strides every day toward the end of the pandemic.
Lastly, I hope for the close cooperation and partnership between the authorities of both countries to continue toward the common challenge of overcoming the spread of the coronavirus infection and for the rest of the globe to welcome a pandemic-free world in 2022.